Statewide Heritage Ohio conference lands in Springfield

Springfield will have the opportunity to showcase its growth and development this month as the host city for the 2021 Heritage Ohio Annual Preservation and Revitalization Conference.

Architects, preservationists, community leaders, revitalizationists and historians from across the state will come to the city from Oct. 18-20 for the conference to learn about creating vibrant downtown spaces and promoting economic growth through preservation.

“The last time Heritage Ohio was in Springfield for a conference was in 2006,” says Kevin Rose, resident historian for The Turner Foundation. “At the time, we had a lot of momentum … but now, it’s amazing to look back over those 15 years. There are some amazing things that have happened in that time.”

Rose says that through the years, Springfield has gained knowledge and built many partnerships by way of the Heritage Ohio conferences. He’s hopeful attendees this year will be able to learn from the growth and development the Springfield community has been experiencing.

“It will be great to showcase for Heritage Ohio our city that we’ve worked on tirelessly for 15 years,” Rose says. “We would not be where we’re at today without the historic tax credits – from the Bushnell Building to work at Wittenberg (University) – and we have so much to showcase as a community. A lot of things have been spurred by (those credits).”

The conference will feature a variety of in-person and virtual sessions to make things comfortable and available for attendees, says Joyce Barrett, Heritage Ohio’s executive director.

The organization was originally founded in 1989 as Downtown Ohio and only focused on downtown revitalizations, Barrett says. In 2000, Heritage Ohio was founded to focus on historic preservation, and shortly after, the two organizations combined.

Heritage Ohio will celebrate its 30th statewide conference this year in Springfield, she says.

Some speakers will present virtually while others will be in person. There also will be a mix of community tours offered to give attendees a taste of Springfield, Barrett says.

Tours will include an overview of Springfield, COhatch, The Gammon House, Victorian architecture, the Wren Building, The Westcott House, and a public art crawl.

“It’s really important for us as a city to have this moment to showcase our Convention and Visitors Bureau and our arts and culture scene,” Rose says. “The city that people will be seeing through the Heritage Ohio conference is a different city than they were seeing in 2006."

To help attendees be able to space out more than in typical years, lunch will be an on-your-own part of the day, where visitors are invited to get food from local businesses to experience the food options in Springfield, Barrett says.

“Of course, there’s an economic component to the conference being here. It’s bringing people to a hotel and local restaurants as they're coming out of COVID and could use the boost,” Rose says. “Heritage Ohio is back, but we’re taking all the precautions to make it a safe, healthy conference.”

Information sessions will include presentations about building vibrant communities, bringing youthful voices to preservation, creating experience-based economies, and historic preservation tax credits.

“No community shows the needs for historic tax credits more than Springfield, Ohio,” Rose says. “In some communities, it is an extra piece of a puzzle that’s great for them to have. In Springfield, you don’t have revitalization work without it. There’s no physical way to make these projects work without a tax credit, and there are a lot of communities out there like that.”

Rose says it’s exciting that the conference will bring back together some of the connections Springfield organizations made in the past, and he’s hopeful about opportunities it will bring for the future.

“What we hope here is to make connections and show what we’ve been working on. This is our chance to show off a bit – we’re really proud,” he says.

Read more articles by Natalie Driscoll.